Budget’s education allocation to exceed 6% for first time
BY Buddhika SamaraweeraFinance Minister Basil Rajapaksa has agreed to grant the salary increase recommended by the Cabinet Sub-Committee (SC) appointed to look into the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue in one go, through the budget proposal for the financial year 2022, according to the Teachers’ and Principals’ Trade Union Alliance (TPTUA).Representatives of the TPTUA met Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa yesterday (10) to discuss the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue.During the discussion, the Finance Minister agreed to grant the salary increase recommended by the relevant Cabinet SC in one go, said Ceylon Teachers’ Service Union (CTSU) General Secretary Mahinda Jayasinghe.However, the TPTUA, as of yesterday, had not decided whether they would abandon the ongoing trade union actions taken by the teachers’ and principals’ trade unions demanding an immediate solution to the salary anomaly issue. Jayasinghe stated that their position in this regard would be announced today (11).However, following the meeting, Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) General Secretary Joseph Stalin told the media that the meeting that was held was similar to a drama performance.“We saw politicians forcibly entering schools and attacking teachers, various mudslinging, and harassment against teachers, including arrests. Today they agreed to pay us in one go. But unfortunately, what they did today was to perform a drama. Sri Lanka Podujana Education Services Union (SLPESU) President Wasantha Handapangoda, who has stood against us and our demands for the longest time, was brought to the meeting, where she proposed that the salary hike be provided in one go. Until now she had been saying that the salary hike is not possible. They wanted to make it look like the salary hike was being given in one go due to the request made by Handapangoda.”Meanwhile, Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, after the meeting yesterday, announced that the 2022 Budget would include a total allocation of 7.51% for the education sector. Noting that this was the first time that the budgetary allocation for the education sector is to exceed 6% – a demand that has been the subject of major protest action in the past – the FInance Minister stated: “Although it is a difficult move, (we) hope to allot this entire amount from the upcoming Budget. Rs. 30 billion in total will be set aside from the next Budget to eliminate the disparities in the teacher and principal salary scales.”A Cabinet SC was appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to look into the salary anomaly issue and the report prepared by the said SC was discussed at the Cabinet of Ministers meeting held on 30 August 2021. Accordingly, Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena at that time, announced that through the budget proposal for the year 2022, the relevant salary revisions would be given to resolve the teachers’ and principals’ salary anomalies.Earlier, it had been suggested to grant the said salary increase in two stages, during a meeting held between trade union representatives and Premier Rajapaksa. However, the trade unions have been insisting that it be provided at once, as part of the Subodhini Committee report’s recommendations; the latter is a committee which was previously appointed to look into the salary anomaly issue of teachers and principals.However, the trade unions did not accept Gunawardena’s announcement and nearly 30 teachers’ and principals’ trade unions have embarked on a number of trade union actions, including withdrawal from all physical and online teaching activities and examination-related duties, demanding a solution to the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue since 12 July 2021. They have since relaxed some of these trade union actions, including by returning to physical teaching in schools under a work-to-rule campaign.